We try to protect our little ones from so much, but many times we make simple mistakes we’re not aware of. Here are Car Seat Mistakes You May Be Making that you didn’t know.

Car Seat Mistakes you may be making

Car Seat Mistakes You May Be Making

As parents, we worry about the safety of our kids all the time. We read, research, and ask questions but sometimes trying to keep them too safe and too comfortable may lead to some unexpected mistakes that many parents make.

Just like the old phrase goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Car seat safety can be one of those instances where this old adage is true. Although as parents we make all our parenting decisions with the best of intentions sometimes those best intentions might be putting our kids in danger.

When it comes to car seat safety parents are always very careful about keeping their little ones safe. Gone are the days of parenting in the wild where the mentality of “we didn’t have car seats, so my kids don’t need them are long gone”.

Either out of comfort or over caution there are some mistakes we might be making when it comes to car seat safety we didn’t even know.  So check out some common Car seat mistakes you may be making now that you didn’t even realize you were making.

1. Facing Your Child Forward too soon

I know, we want our kids to hit the next “Milestone” as quickly as possible. I remember 10 years ago when my oldest was turning a year old I was so excited about turning him forward on his 1st Birthday. We were so excited and made such a big deal about it. Little did I know that what I was doing wasn’t exactly a good thing.

It was actually pretty dangerous. So thankfully, after many studies and crash test the guidelines were changed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They advise parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they exceed the height or weight limit for their car seat, which is typically 20-35  pounds for an infant seat, and 35 to 40 pounds for a convertible seat.

So What do you do?

Since you can’t forward face an infant car seat the next step is to buy a convertible that can be rear-facing once your child outgrows the infant seat. I’ve heard many parents say they’re little ones’ legs are squished in the rear-facing position or they’re too big to rear-face, study after study shows that in the case of a car crash your child will be safer in this position.  

Just because their legs are “squished up” or touching” is not a reason to turn your little one around. It’s not unsafe and not a reason to turn your child around too soon. Believe it or not, having your child’s legs bent is a much safer option than turning your kids around too early. As a matter of fact, the safest position for children up until 4 years old is in the rear-facing position. I know for many parents that’s a “Silly thought” or “ridiculous” but wouldn’t it be better to keep your little one safe from harm than worrying about something being silly?

Check out the full guidelines here to help you see what you should be doing. Follow the new American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on how long to keep your child rear-facing.

2. Never buy a used seat

There’s no way to know for sure if it has been in an accident. I know you really want a Diono or a Britax but just can’t afford it so that enticing ad on Craigslist looks so good. Don’t do it!


Thankfully, places like Target and Toys R US always having some great trade-in discounts on car seats and there’s always a fantastic sale to be had on the best car seats around. Also, remember that car seats generally have expiration dates six years after manufacturing so you don’t want to end up with a car seat that is past its prime.

3. Check to see if your seat has been recalled

Many times you buy a car seat new but don’t realize that it was recalled or has some issues you need a special piece for. If you are unsure of whether or not your model seat has been recalled, you can easily check it on the Safer Car website. It is imperative that if your seat has been recalled, you contact the manufacturer straight away to figure out a solution to the problem

4. Using the LATCH system incorrectly

 All lower anchors are rated for a maximum weight of 65 pounds (total weight includes car seat and child). Yup, so even though you’re rear-facing your 4-year-old, you may be putting them at big risk in case of a car crash.  Parents should check the car seat manufacturer’s recommendations for the maximum weight a child can be to use lower anchors. New car seats have the maximum weight printed on their label as a guide.

5. Not using the tether

Do you know that long strap? The one that gets stuck in car doors and under your feet when you’re moving your car seat around? Believe it or not, it’s a crucial part of your car seat and could be a lifesaver. Itis is intended to be attached to anchors that usually sit behind the headrests. However, almost all tethers are only used with forward-facing car seats. The tether keeps your little one’s head safely within the confines of the seat. Sadly a lot of parents don’t use it :(.

Using the tether will decrease how far your little one’s head moves forward by four to eight inches with a properly installed car seat and that’s the key to decreasing your child’s chance of having a brain or spinal cord injury.

6.Is your Car Seat restrained correctly?

Child safety seats should be restrained either via a vehicle’s Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system or a vehicle’s seat belt. Do not use both at the same time.  Unless specifically allowed by both the seat and the vehicle’s manufacturers in the owner’s manuals.

Both ways of restraint are rated as being equally as safe up to 60 pounds. That weight limit includes the weight of the child added to the weight of the car seat. To test the weight of this combination, place the car seat on a bathroom scale. Make sure the child who will be using the seat is strapped into place. But don’t use both!

7. Seat is improperly reclined

 It can be hard to get your little one’s car seat reclined right but it’s crucial you do. Thankfully, many car seats come with a level guide. It lets you know if your car seat is in the right position.


This is especially crucial in infant car seats because your little ones don’t have control of their head muscles. Being on the wrong recline can be very dangerous.  Most important in a car crash they may have spinal cord injury if not in the right position.

8. The chest clip is not in the right place: 

I’m guilty of it, especially with little ones who like to play with their harness clips. Thankfully my younger two are great about positioning it just right.  However, I remember not being “aware” with my oldest that it was a chest clip.

Therefore needing to be on the chest. Thankfully most car seat distributors like Diono have a handy graphic on the chest clip to remind you where it goes 🙂

9. Winter Jacket Use

Believe me, this is a hard one. When it’s cold, the easiest thing to do is just buckle your little one in when it’s freezing. Even when wearing a jacket. However, doing so is extremely dangerous. The reason is that although it feels snug the straps are actually incredibly loose. Here’s a great article with a video showing the dangers of wearing a coat with a car seat. The results are eye-opening.

10. Don’t add anything to the chair!

Sure we’re all guilty of adding things to the car seats like Binkies, mirrors, strap covers, and other accessories. However, that is a big no-no. Nothing should be attached to the seat unless the manufacturer explicitly states that they are allowed to be attached. In the event of a collision, these accessories could move and break off, causing injury to the child.

When it comes to these car seat mistakes, parents that do them aren’t doing them on purpose or maliciously. Most actually think they are doing something that is ok or acceptable. It’s important to be informed and know what the best practices are with car seat safety. Keeping our little ones as safe as possible on the road.

Looking for more info on safe car seats? Check out 5 booster seat questions here.